This week, it was announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission had charged the pastor of one of the largest Protestant churches in the country in a scheme to defraud elderly investors. The pastor and a self-described financial planner is accused of carrying out a scheme to defraud elderly investors by selling them interest in defunct, pre-Revolutionary Chinese bonds. The complaint alleges that in 2013 and 2014, Kirbyjon Caldwell, who serves as the Senior Pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, and Gregory Alan Smith targeted vulnerable and elderly investors with false assurances that the bonds were worth millions of dollars.
The two men raised at least $3.4 million from 29 mostly elderly investors. Smith and Caldwell are alleged to have taken approximately $1.8 million of investor funds for pay for personal expenses. Offshore individuals received most of the remaining funds. The complaint accuses Caldwell and Smith of violating the registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. In a separate complaint, the SEC charged attorney Shae Yatta Harper of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey with aiding and abetting the defendants’ antifraud violations.
Harper has agreed to settle the SEC’s action against her without admitting or denying the allegations. Additional details have been made available here.